In this children’s portal-fantasy adventure, 13-year-old twins enter a magic world ruled by a wicked Cyclops.
On the occasion of his 100th birthday on August 8, Great-Granddad Bill tells the amazing story of his and his twin sister Annie’s 13th birthday, when they passed through a portal to rainbow-colored Far-Ago Magic Island. There, Annie and Billy learn from a girl named Egnaro that twins born on the eighth day of the eighth month have great meaning to Far-Ago. She also tells them that all is not well in her homeland: “Although we have riches beyond compare on this beautiful island, we have no freedom.” A wicked, powerful Cyclops called Terominus, who can change his appearance, rules the land. Egnaro invites the twins to explore the island with the protection of a talisman and the dumligo, a multihorned Shetland-pony–like creature that can turn into a magical weapon, which Billy alone can use (and see, along with Terominus). The twins will have helpers, but they must keep in mind certain dangers and prohibitions, such as “Do not, under any circumstance, make eye contact with a kitten named Omenia.” After an attack in which Billy discovers that the dumligo’s horn becomes a large, shiny, magnificent silver sword, he realizes that he must kill the Cyclops to free the islanders. The twins undergo various dangers, such as capture by trolls, but they also find help, and Billy eventually faces his foe. In her debut book, Larcombe uses well-worn tropes like the portal itself, magical helpers and objects, a special destiny, and the hero’s coming-of-age journey. She enlivens this with colorful worldbuilding and a sense of charm, as with the dangerous kitten and a raucous troll celebration. Disappointingly, though, Billy is automatically put in charge of wielding the weapon. He’s a 13-year-old boy, so his physical strength is unlikely to tip the balance. Nevertheless, he’s the hero while Annie is given the dull role of being supportive from the sidelines: “Oh, Billy! You saved us! How brave you are! I wish I could see your wonderful sword.”
Some entertaining elements, but only the boy gets to play hero.